Why Clif Bar created a multimillion-dollar fund to help farmers invest in resilience

April 1, 2019 by  
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The first focus: helping organics operations become hosts for wind turbines.

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Why Clif Bar created a multimillion-dollar fund to help farmers invest in resilience

SUPERFARM design envisions an urban vertical farm that is energy self-sufficient

February 19, 2019 by  
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French design practice Studio NAB has proposed a large-scale vertical farm as a sustainable solution to urban population growth in the face of dwindling arable land. Envisioned for urban centers, the conceptual vertical agriculture facility — dubbed the SUPERFARM — aims to produce high-yielding food with high nutrition values, including but not limited to various seaweeds, edible insects and fish raised in aquaponic systems. To minimize the SUPERFARM’s impact on the environment, the designers have also proposed that the futuristic indoor farming concept be powered entirely with renewable energy from wind turbines and solar panels. Studio NAB created its SUPERFARM utopian architecture in response to the startling statistics put forth by Dickson Despommier, an emeritus professor of microbiology and public health at Columbia University. Considered a pioneer in vertical farming , Dr. Despommier authored the book The Problem , in which he proposed indoor urban agriculture as a sustainable alternative to traditional farming methods and a potential solution to feeding the world’s growing urban populations. “Vector for ecological transition, the ‘Superfarm’ project is part of a resilient and human-sensitive approach, paying attention to its health and its relations with food,” Studio NAB shares in its project statement. “Far from the traditional urban farm producing salads or other fruits and vegetables, the ‘Superfarm’ project, as its name suggests, focuses its production on the culture of foods with a high nutritional value that can be consumed in addition to a healthy diet, but also on foods likes fishes or honey.” Related: The GCC’s first commercial vertical farm launches in Dubai SUPERFARM is envisioned as a six-story building erected over water rather than land so as not to take away real estate that could otherwise be used for parkland. To fulfill the designers’ goal of reconnecting people to their food, the urban farm would also need to be located close to the consumers so that they can come directly to the farm. Studio NAB believes that because of the highly controlled indoor environment, no pesticides would be used in any of the farming operations. Moreover, water would be saved and recycled for energy efficiency. + Studio NAB Images via Studio NAB

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SUPERFARM design envisions an urban vertical farm that is energy self-sufficient

Under one roof: How companies can simplify renewable energy development

January 22, 2019 by  
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Sponsored: Solar panels and wind turbines are only one part of the picture.

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Under one roof: How companies can simplify renewable energy development

General Electric to debut world’s largest wind turbine in UK

April 24, 2018 by  
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General Electric just announced that it will begin testing the world’s largest wind turbine – the Haliade-X – at its facilities in Blyth, England. General Electric’s renewable energy department signed a five-year contract with the British government-funded Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) to begin trials of the 12-megawatt turbine. “This is an important agreement because it will enable us to prove Haliade-X in a faster way by putting it under controlled and extreme conditions,” GE Offshore Wind president and CEO John Lavelle said in a statement . The United Kingdom plans to rapidly develop its offshore wind capacity, with an estimated growth to 30 gigawatts by 2030 – five times greater than its current capacity. Speaking to Reuters , British energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry cited the contract between GE and OREC as a shining example of the country’s advanced research and testing facilities. The largest currently operational wind turbine is also in the United Kingdom ; MHI Vestas’ 9 MW turbines generate power in the Vattenfall wind farm off the shore of Aberdeen, Scotland . Related: GE develops hybrid jet engine and battery to supplement California renewables In addition to the formal approval of testing, the agreement includes funding from Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund to create the world’s most powerful grid emulation system at OREC’s Blyth headquarters. General Electric ‘s move to develop the largest turbine follows a general trend in the industry, in which producers are aiming to create the biggest turbines to reduce the cost of energy produced and to increase the amount of energy generated at each turbine. With money to be made, the future of wind energy looks to be bigger than ever. Via Reuters Images via GE and Depositphotos

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General Electric to debut world’s largest wind turbine in UK

Cows could one day be the largest land mammals left because of human activity

April 24, 2018 by  
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The world’s biggest land mammal is the African bush elephant , which can be up to 13 feet tall and 24 feet long. But this elephant — and giraffes, hippos and other large animals — could go extinct because of human activity, leaving the domestic cow as the biggest terrestrial mammal in a couple centuries. In a recent study, researchers scrutinized large mammal extinction as humans spread, and their study is, according to the University of New Mexico , “the first to quantitatively show … that size selective extinction is a hallmark of human activities and not the norm in mammal evolution.” Thousands of years ago, the spread of archaic humans from Africa coincided with extinction of megafauna, or large mammals, like sabre-toothed tigers and mammoths, The Guardian reported. “One of the most surprising finds was that 125,000 years ago, the average body size of mammals on Africa was already 50 percent smaller than on other continents,” said Felisa Smith, professor at the University of New Mexico and lead author of the study. “We suspect this means that archaic humans and other hominins had already influenced mammal diversity and body size in the late-Pleistocene.” Related: The world’s last male northern white rhino has died in Kenya The researchers compiled extensive data around mammal body size, geographic location, climate and extinction status in the past 125,000 years and modeled diversity and body size distributions for the next 200 years. The study also found that in 65 million years, climate changes didn’t lead to more extinctions. “We suspect that in the past, shifts in climate led to adaptation and movement of animals, not extinction,” said co-author Jonathan Payne of Stanford University . “Of course, today ongoing climate change may result in extinction since most megafauna are limited in how far they can move.” Smith said we’re really just starting to appreciate megafauna’s crucial roles in ecosystems. “For example, as they walk, their massive size compacts the soil, which can lead to changes in gas exchange or water tables. … We are not entirely sure what the potential loss of these ‘ecosystem engineers’ could lead to,” he said. “I hope we never find out.” The journal Science published the research this month. Scientists from the University of California, San Diego and University of Nebraska-Lincoln also contributed. + University of New Mexico + Science Via The Guardian Images via Michael Pujals on Unsplash and the University of New Mexico

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‘Acoustic lighthouses’ could warn birds about wind turbines

March 14, 2018 by  
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Birds and humans don’t always co-exist peacefully — each year millions of the small animals fly into buildings, wind turbines , cell towers, and even planes. William & Mary behavioral biologist John Swaddle is working to translate understanding of bird behavior into technology that could hopefully save their lives, including an Acoustic Lighthouse that would guide birds around man-made structures. Here’s how an acoustic lighthouse might work: a directional speaker mounted on a structure like a wind turbine would project a sound warning birds. While flying, birds align their bodies on a horizontal plane for ideal aerodynamics, according to Swaddle . And as their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they’re looking down, not where they’re flying. The sound would essentially prompt them to slow down, and when slowing down, birds lower their tail feathers, moving their bodies “from the horizontal plane to a more vertical position,” according to William & Mary, so they can see the structure and soar around it. Swaddle said, “It’s a bit like someone texting while they’re driving. If you honk your horn at them, they’ll look up.” Related: Painting Wind Turbines Black Could Prevent Thousands of Bird Deaths Every Year “The fundamental knowledge of how birds behave and respond to sound helps us derive these new technologies and solutions,” said Swaddle. He’s also developed a concept called Sonic Nets, intended to disrupt gatherings of birds in places like airports, parking lots, or crop fields. Swaddle recently spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting on reducing strike risk between birds and wind turbines and airplanes , and protecting crops, through an understanding of bird behavior. The journal Integrative and Comparative Biology published a paper written by Swaddle and former William & Mary graduate student Nicole Ingrassia on the acoustic lighthouse concept in 2017. + William & Mary Via Science Magazine Images via DepositPhotos , William & Mary video screengrab

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Renewable energy could face tax problems in Republican compromise

December 19, 2017 by  
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Renewable energy advocates initially breathed a sigh of relief when the Republican tax bill reworked a provision that could have disrupted the industry’s $12 billion tax-equity market, Bloomberg reported . But a closer look reveals the bill includes what the publication described as “hidden pitfalls that could undercut its benefit.” Law firm Stoel Rives partner Greg Jenner told Bloomberg, “If Congress thought they were eliminating the trouble for renewables , they were wrong. It’s a question of how bad it will be.” Many solar and wind developers receive tax credits , and as they typically don’t have a big tax liability, third parties like insurance companies or banks will invest in their projects – basically in exchange for those credits, according to Bloomberg. The anxiety is over the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT), a provision intended to close loopholes for companies including insurers and banks that remit money to affiliates overseas. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. American Council on Renewable Energy president Greg Wetstone said, “The BEAT program will make it harder to use the tax credits – even though it’s significantly improved from what we were presented with” in the Senate. The compromise would expand which companies face the BEAT tax, according to Bloomberg. And because companies won’t be sure if they are subject to a BEAT tax bill, they might not be willing to do a tax-equity deal with renewable energy developers. The compromise tax bill would let companies offset up to 80 percent of their foreign-transaction tax with renewable energy credits, per Bloomberg, but the 80 percent offset expires in 2025. Separately, there could be less demand for renewable energy tax credits if the overall corporate tax rate is trimmed down to 21 percent, according to Bloomberg. The publication said all these details mean there’s a lot of uncertainty in the $12 billion tax-equity market’s future. Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study

December 19, 2017 by  
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It turns out mushrooms aren’t just great to eat, but played an essential role in creating an atmosphere suitable for animal life, according to a new study. The earliest plants to dwell on land did not have well developed roots or vascular systems. Fungi, among the earliest colonizers of land, helped facilitate the transfer of phosphorus from rocky soil to the primitive plants , which required the mineral to photosynthesize. “The results of including data on fungal interactions present a significant advance in our understanding of Earth’s early development,” said Benjamin Mills, co-author of a report on the research published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B . “Our work clearly shows the importance of fungi in the creation of an oxygenated atmosphere.” The recent research shines a light on a process that remains mysterious, even in modern times. “Photosynthesis by land plants is ultimately responsible for about half of the oxygen generation on Earth, and requires phosphorus, but we currently have a poor understanding of how the global supply of this nutrient to plants works,” said Mills. Without fungi helping them acquire their necessary phosphorus, the earliest land plants would not have been able to survive. The oldest fossil of a land-living organism is of a fungi species, one of many which moved on land and helped to break down the rocky mantle into soil, enabling plants with roots to more easily extract their minerals . Related: Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies To test fungi’s symbiotic relationship with early plants, a research team at the University of Leeds incorporated computer modeling and laboratory experiments which involved ancient species of fungus that still endure today. The researchers observed the differing rates at which different species of fungi exchanged phosphorus and carbon, which indicated how quickly plants might have produced oxygen. “We used a computer model to simulate what might have happened to the climate throughout the Palaeozoic era if the different types of early plant-fungal symbioses were included in the global phosphorus and carbon cycles,” said Katie Field, study co-author and plant biologist. “We found the effect was potentially dramatic, with the differences in plant-fungal carbon-for-nutrient exchange greatly altering Earth’s climate through plant-powered drawdown of CO2 for photosynthesis , substantially changing the timing of the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere.” Via Science Alert Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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First floating wind farm in the world begins generating power

October 18, 2017 by  
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Five massive wind turbines floating in the sea near Scotland have started sending energy to the grid. Statoil , a Norwegian power company, has been working on the 30 megawatt Hywind Scotland project for several years, and it’s now up and running. The wind farm can power around 20,000 homes. Hywind Scotland is around 15 miles from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. As the farm’s wind turbines are floating , they can be placed in waters far deeper than those of conventional offshore wind farms. The Hywind Scotland turbines are in water depths of as much as 129 meters, or 423 feet – offshore wind turbines that are attached to the seabed are typically in depths of up to 50 meters, or 164 feet. Related: The world’s largest floating wind farm is planned for the California coast That figure is important because according to Statoil, 80 percent of potential offshore wind locations have water depths greater than 60 meters. And they think their floating turbines could work in even deeper waters than those of Hywind Scotland. Statoil New Energy Solutions executive vice president Irene Rummelhoff said in a statement, “Hywind can be used for water depths up to 800 meters, thus opening up areas that so far have been inaccessible for offshore wind. The learnings from Hywind Scotland will pave the way for new global market opportunities for floating offshore wind energy .” From blade tip to the surface of the sea, the wind turbines are 175 meters, or around 574 feet, large. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the project puts the country “at the forefront of this global race and positions Scotland as a world center for energy innovation.” Statoil and project partner Masdar are also working on an one megawatt-hour (MWh) battery storage project, called Batwind, that will store clean power generated from Hywind Scotland. Rummelhoff said Statoil plans to keep working on lowering costs of power from the wind farm, down to €40 to €60 per MWh by 2030. Via the BBC and Statoil Images via Øyvind Gravås/Woldcam/Statoil and Øyvind Gravås/Statoil

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Former coal miners receive training for renewable energy jobs

October 3, 2017 by  
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Over half of the United States’ electricity came from coal in 2000. That figure has plummeted to around one third in 2016, and thousands of coal workers have lost their jobs . But former fossil fuel workers have skills that could translate well to jobs like installing solar panels or working on wind turbines . Other programs teaching former miners computer coding and beekeeping are also aiding the transition away from fossil fuels to a greener future. Coal miners once found roles in West Virginia and Wyoming , and now alternative energy training programs in those states offer new hope. For example, there’s Solar Holler in West Virginia, whose goal, according to their website, is to revitalize Appalachian communities with solar power . They’re working with Coalfield Development to train people to become solar panel installers. Coalfield Development is also rehabilitating buildings and starting an agriculture program, including transforming an old mine area into a solar-powered fish farm, according to The New York Times. Related: The wind turbine manufacturer putting unemployed coal miners to work Or there’s Goldwind Americas , a wind turbine manufacturer offering a training program for coal miners that started earlier this year in Wyoming . The miners could help construct a massive wind farm , and the company will employ up to 200 workers to maintain the farm after it’s built. Appalachian Headwaters is another organization providing an alternative for former coal miners. They’re turning an old camp into an apiary, with the goal of helping coal workers and veterans get a start in the honey business. Next year, they’ll give around 150 hives to 35 workers either for free or with a no- or low-interest loan. Solar Holler founder Dan Conant said diversification is important in the area – the solar program so far only trains 10 workers a year. There are challenges in the transition to a clean energy future, but for now, programs like the ones above offer new training and roles for unemployed miners. Via The New York Times and Axios Images via Bureau of Land Management on Flickr and Coalfield Development Corporation Facebook

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